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'Halo ODST' Returns to First-Person Shooter Format

In April, a study by the research group Gameplan Insights found "Halo 3: ODST" to be the most anticipated game for the Xbox 360.

That’s not surprising. "ODST" is expected to be the final "Halo" game made by series creators "Bungie Software." While the franchise will undoubtedly live on, this is the last chance for players to experience it through the eyes of the team who first dreamed it up.

Concrete information has been fleeting. We can tell you that the game returns "Halo" to its first-person shooter roots after this spring’s detour into the real-time strategy genre.

"ODST" is short for Orbital Drop Shock Troopers—basically a special forces outfit. The Master Chief, who led the way through previous "Halo" games, will not be a part of this game, nor will other familiar characters from the series.

Your character, a rookie, is nowhere near as tough as the Master Chief, meaning players will have to be a bit more cautious as they explore New Mombassa, a location that played a key role in "Halo 2."

The game, which is a standalone expansion (meaning you don’t need to own "Halo 3" to play it), will certainly be shorter than previous "Halo" installments. Exact length of play and pricing hasn’t been determined, but Bungie has been quoted as saying they don’t view "ODST" as a $60 title. Ultimately, that will be Microsoft’s call.

For hardcore players, though, the game’s chief appeal lies in the multiplayer components. All of the "Halo 3" multiplayer maps (including those released via digital download) will be included with the game as well as new ones. (Casual players, you might want to skip the next paragraph. It’s about to get geeky.)

Also, for the first time, players will be able to earn their own set of Recon Armor—something that’s currently available only to Bungie employees and a small number of players who have befriended them. To get the armor in "ODST," though, you’re going to have to unlock a lot of achievements.

Saleswise, analysts expect a hit.

"This game should do pretty well," says Scott Mucci of GamerMetrics, a forecasting group that tracks the hit potential of titles based on gamer interest on the IGN enthusiast Web sites. "It won’t do as well as the original ‘Halo 3’ by any means … but we expect in terms of unit sales, it should be Top 10 or Top 12 in the Sept. to Dec. timeframe."

"Halo 3: ODST" is expected to hit store shelves this fall.

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